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Red Butte Gardens

Red Butte Gardens

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Salt Lake City’s best-kept secret is likely the wonderful Red Butte Garden located above the University of Utah at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon. The garden and the canyon are named for an exposed vein of red sandstone. Early pioneers quarried this namesake rock and it became the foundations, walls and curbs for many prominent Salt Lake City buildings.

They have built the garden in phases and the more mature gardens have taken on a completed, natural look that makes them very comfortable. I was there when the gardens were first started and in spite of the fact that it reveals my age, I have loved watching them grow through the years.

These dynamic gardens never stop growing. From a small grove of native trees, they have expanded into some wonderful collections of ornamental grasses, daylilies, perennials and other flowers. The prominent floral walk features hundreds of flowers of all kinds mingled with native and introduced trees. Red Butte has no shortage on plants with more than 20,000 plants and 1,500 species and the gardens cover more than 150 acres. It s the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain area that tests, displays and interprets regional horticulture.

The four-season garden greets visitors as they exit the Visitors Center. These displays are constantly changing and offer a striking contrast with the hills in the background and the sandstone pavers and benches. Stroll the upper gardens that are filled with herbs in the medicinal and the fragrance garden.

Red Butte is a garden to be savored. Plan a leisurely visit to indulge your senses. The obvious delights are visual with mixtures of rock and water, trees and flowers and majestic mountain backdrops certain to please the eyes no matter what direction you look.

The other senses are stimulated more subtly. The sounds of water from Red Butte Creek pouring over the falls and the wind whispering through the trees make you feel as though you have left the city far behind. Fragrance comes from the myriad of flowers and the wonderfully aromatic herbs. The delights change as you stroll from one venue to another.

These gardens have a wonderful sense of feel with such use of texture that most gardens do not enjoy. The wonderful red sandstone is there in rich abundances but so is weathered trestle lumber from the bridges in the Great Salt Lake. Look for the delightful ground covers, the topiary figures in the children’s garden and many other materials and plants to add to the tactile sensations.

Relax in the gardens but learn about the plants. From native to introduced, from small wildflowers to mature majestic trees, from striking annuals to subtle perennials, these gardens are a pleasure to visit. Much of the foothills and the upper areas are managed as a natural area for educational and conservation purposes. Visitors can see, firsthand what plants will survive with little or no supplemental water in our area.

Join the staff and volunteers at Red Butte this Saturday for the annual plant sale. Look for some unusual plants to add some interest to your garden this season or for many seasons. The sale is from 9:00 am to 3:00pm in the garden amphitheater.

Featured in the sale is a good selection of annuals and perennials, herbs, vegetables, trees and shrubs. Many unusual plants are featured as a part of the sale so finding the right plant for a special accent in the garden will be part of the thrill. Red Butte Garden is located at Call 581 IRIS or check their website at for more information.

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